By Sajjad Shaukat
Although various kinds of terror attacks have been conducted by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its banned affiliated groups in the past few years, yet the massacre of 132 school children at Army Public School and College in Peshawar on December 16, this year proved a watershed, as it has given a final wake up call to the nation to unite against these ruthless terrorists.
In this regard, the armed forces of Pakistan have conducted several successful military operations against the terrorists; the most recent one being operation Zarb-e-Azb, which has successfully broken the backbone of militants. Frustrated by their failures, these insurgents are resorting to coward acts like attack on innocent children in Peshawar.
Taking note of the school attack, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif has himself started supervising the military action against terrorists, and as part of the operation, several terrorists have been killed during air strikes in Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency. Gen. Raheel also stated, “We are extremely saddened, but our resolve has taken new height”, and added “We will continue to go after the inhuman beasts, their facilitators till their final elimination.”
In this context, Gen. Raheel accompanied by the DG of Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), rushed to Kabul on December 17. During his meeting with his Afghan counterpart, President Ashraf Ghani and the ISAF commander, he presented evidence of the Peshawar massacre’s linkage with TTP sanctuaries in Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. He also asked the extradition of Mullah Fazlluah, and handing over to Pakistan. In response, they assured him to take action against the TTP.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s valiant forces, law-enforcing and security agencies including ISI have accelerated their operations against the Taliban and other terrorists who are being hit or arrested all across the country. They have also captured heavy arms and explosive-material.
However, the Peshawar school incident demands that the politics of disharmony, indecisiveness, expediencies and indifference should come to a grinding halt. For the purpose, leaders of all the top political parties including PTI Chief Imran Khan attended a meeting of the parliamentary parties convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the deadly attack at a school in Peshawar. Setting aside his differences, Imran Khan called off the December 18 countrywide shutdown, ended PTI’s 126-day sit-in at Islamabad to give a clear message that the whole nation stands united against terrorism. Besides, all the leaders are cooperating with the government against terrorism, and unanimously formed a parliamentary committee to chalk out a ‘National Plan of Action’ in seven days, which is likely to be approved by the political and military leadership.
In the aftermath of the Peshawar school attack, there arose the need of immediate execution of outstanding cases of death penalty to terrorists. In this respect, it is good sign that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revoked the ban on capital punishment in terrorism cases following which the terrorists facing death penalty are being executed. It is also indication that judicial body is also playing a positive role in fight against terrorists. So, judicial order should be implemented and national grace must be restored.
Nevertheless, the inhuman gruesome tragedy in Peshawar requires that the government, leaders of the opposition and religious parties including various segments of society and general masses must unite by playing their role against these ferocious terrorists.
And, Pakistan’s religious clerics (Ulema) who have condemned the terror attack at Peshawar school must continue issuing joint or separate fatwa against these brutal militants, as from time to time, they have clarified that “killing of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombings including sectarianism are against the spirit of Islam…the terrorists’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing, but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion.” Religious elements/groups should keep on checking the activities which are instigating intolerant tendencies.
Besides, media should be sensitized to play its positive role in the war against terrorism. It must be on low profile to avoid national demoralization, as careful reporting by media without glorifying terrorist acts is need of the hour. For the purpose, extremist people like Maulana Abdul Aziz (Lal Masjid) and Hafiz Saeed may not be given undue space by the media.
No doubt, media’s role is of great importance in creating a harmonious environment in the country. They have to ignore their business interests, differences and ratings and support Pakistan in striking back anti-state elements and their sympathizers.
Some analysts opine that like the previous anti-terrorism law, the ‘National Action Plan’ will not be implemented in its true letter and spirit. But, now the nation demands that while taking solid measures, counter-terrorism strategy or the National Action Plan must be implemented without losing more time. Political leadership is required to shun their differences and create unity amongst them to combat terrorism and extremists.
In fact, the menace of terrorism cannot be tackled with political expediencies, but with clear, firm and decisive policies, as on the tragic killing of 132 innocent school children, Pakistan must strike back terrorists and their sympathizers with zero tolerance.
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s Armed Forces have almost defeated the terrorists, particularly of the TTP by clearing the areas of North Waziristan Agency by military operation Zarb-e-Azb. Now, the operation which has been extended to other tribal areas needs support of the nation.
Undoubtedly, Peshawar school tragedy is a final wake up call to the whole nation, and now Pakistan has to decide firmly that barbarity of the terrorists will not be tolerated any more. So, all the segments of society including politicians, intellectuals, media, religious elements and the general masses need to endeavor harmoniously—to check the proliferation of extremist tendencies. Instead of verbal statements, they must display practical unity against these zealots who seek to create anarchy in the country to accomplish their self-motivated agenda at the direction of Pakistan’s enemies. Therefore, every patriot Pakistani must cooperate with the security forces, law-enforcing and intelligence agencies in fighting this war.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations